Two Florida men who stormed the Capitol with other members of the far-right group Oath Keepers were sentenced to jail on Friday for sedition conspiracy and other charges, until January 6, 2021. It is the latest in a series of historic rulings in the assault case.
Neurophysiologist David Merschel, 45, from Punta Gorda, and chiropractor Joseph Hackett, 52, from Sarasota, were involved in what prosecutors described as a violent plot to prevent transfers. was convicted in January, along with other members of the rebel group. After the 2020 election, power passed from former President Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
Both were among junior members charged with seditious conspiracy. Merciel was sentenced to three years in prison and Hackett to three and a half years.
Altogether, nine people associated with the Oathkeepers were put on trial for sedition conspiracy, and six, including the group’s founder, Stewart Rose, were tried in two separate trials for the rarely-conducted Civil War era. convicted of a crime. He was sentenced last week to 18 years in prison, the longest for a January 6 defendant. The three defendants were acquitted of the sedition charges but were convicted of other crimes on January 6.
Helped collect guns
Prosecutors said Merciel and Hackett helped collect guns and ammunition to stash in a Virginia hotel as a so-called “quick response force” that could be quickly transported to Washington. Weapons were never deployed. Prosecutors said Mr. Merciel provided an AR-15 and a Glock semi-automatic pistol, and Mr. Hackett helped transport the weapons.
According to the indictment, both men, dressed in paramilitary uniforms, entered the Capitol in military formation on January 6 with fellow Orth Keepers and others.
“The security of our nation and the security of our democracy should not depend on the impulses of a madman,” Justice Department Attorney Troy Edwards said.
Merschel told the judge he was deeply ashamed of participating in the riot that forced his way into the Capitol, severely injuring a police officer and causing staff to run in terror.
“When I was on the stairs, Your Excellency, I felt like God told me to ‘get out of here’ and I didn’t,” he said emotionally in court. said while “I have disobeyed God and broken the law.”
Prior to his arrest, Mercier monitored surgical patients under anesthesia, but was later fired and now works in the construction and landscaping industries. A former missionary, he is married and has three children.
Hackett similarly said he remembered feeling terrified when he walked into the Capitol that day, saying he was “really sorry for his role in causing so much misery”. .
According to his attorney, Angela Halim, he was originally inspired to do so after witnessing vandalism in a commercial area near his home in the summer of 2020, when protests against police violence were frequent. said to have joined the group. “He joined this organization not because he shared Stewart Rose’s beliefs,” she said.
Nonetheless, he then participated in an “unconventional warfare” training session, repeatedly warning other Oathkeepers of the “leaks” and the need to protect their communications until January 6th, and then went online. Authorities have announced that they have changed their screen names. Said.
Prosecutor Alexandra Hughes said, “His messages taken together show that he perceived the election as an existential threat.”
But how the chiropractor and father came to storm the Capitol is “difficult to understand,” said U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta. The group’s increasingly heated online conversations and false claims that the election was stolen “could suck you in like a vortex and make it very difficult to get out.”
No verdict for ‘revenge’
Neither were the group’s top leaders and left shortly after January 6. Both sentences were well below the 12-year sentence prosecutors had sought for Mr. Hackett and the 10-year term for Mr. Merschel.
Mehta said Merchel was inside the Capitol for about 12 minutes and did not attack police officers or shout. He also handed over the gun to the police.
“Sentences should not be revengeful. They should not be unduly harsh just because they are harsh,” the judge said, and sentenced them to three years of supervised release.
Ms Merciel’s lawyers have sought house arrest, claiming Ms Merciel was part of an Oath Keepers chat shortly before the riot and was not the leader.
Attorney Scott Weinberg told the judge, “He was at the back of the crowd,” he said.
For years, defense attorneys have argued that there was never a plan to attack the Capitol and that the prosecution’s case was built largely on online messages taken out of context.
The charges against the leaders of the Oath Keepers and another far-right extremist group, the Proud Boys, are among the most serious of the Justice Department’s major riot investigations. Prosecutors are also guilty of sedition conspiracy in a lawsuit against former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tario and three other group leaders, alleging another conspiracy to keep President Trump in the White House. won the verdict.
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